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Inside The White Council

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Tuesday 18 July 2006
If you have any adventure in your heart, last week's news that EA is making a Lord of the Rings free-form action RPG should have sent your excitement levels into overdrive. We've had a sneak peek of the ambitious project - previously known as Project Gray Company - and now we're here to tell you all about it.

The White Council is set 80 years before the Lord of the Rings novels - Bilbo has yet to stumble upon the Ring and Aragorn is learning to tie his boot-laces. But Sauron's evil minions are just as dangerous and as a man, elf, dwarf or hobbit you'll be clashing swords with orcs, hunting wargs and besting treasure-hoarding dragons.

Like Oblivion, The White Council will thrust you down a 'spine' of story-driven quests and adventures. Your ultimate aim is to ally with the White Council, the mystical gang of Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman (before he switched sides). EA has continued its obsession with all things official by hauling in the respective stars of Peter Jackson's epic films to voice the characters.

The game's AI is being handled by the techno-brains behind The Sims 2, so hopefully there'll be no blips in character behaviour, like discovering that Elrond has been standing nose-to-wall in a cellar for five hours. It could even bring some memorable characters to life - we caught a glimpse of what could well be Smaug, the terrifying fire-breathing dragon from The Hobbit.

Steve Gray, executive producer for The White Council, was heavily involved in EA's excellent duo of third-person Lord of the Rings scrappers - The Two Towers and Return of the King - and he's aiming to bring meaty hacking and hard-hitting combat to The White Council, as well as an expansive quest structure that gives you Oblivion-levels of freedom.

The line between good and evil is a lot stronger in Middle-earth, however, so we're not expecting to be able to sneak into Gandalf's house for some magical robbery. But you never know.

The Lord of the Rings: The White Council is heading to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC late next year - and we can hardly bear to wait.

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